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Ex-Illinois congressman Schock indicted on 24 counts of fraud, theft

"They were honest mistakes," Schock said in response to the indictment Thursday.

By Doug G. Ware
Ex-Illinois congressman Schock indicted on 24 counts of fraud, theft
Former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock was indicted on 24 criminal charges Thursday that include wire fraud, theft of government funds and making false statements. The charges stem from allegations that he defrauded the government for personal benefit. File Photo courtesy Brian Kersey/UPI

CHICAGO, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Disgraced former Illinois congressman Aaron Schock is facing serious trouble for his extravagant spending while in office after a federal grand jury indicted him on 24 criminal counts Thursday.

Schock was slapped with a spate of charges after a nearly two-year investigation by two federal grand juries. Those charges include wire fraud, theft of government funds, making false statements and filing false tax returns.

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Schock, 35, resigned from office last year after the investigation began to heat up. Suspicions were first raised partly due to questions regarding the extravagance of his public office space, which underwent a thorough and pricey renovation and included numerous lavish items.

RELATED March 2015: Rep. Aaron Schock resigns amid questions about spending

He was referred to as the "Downton Abbey" congressman due to his office's aesthetic resemblance to the popular British television series.

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The Illinois Republican also became well known for showing off his first-class tastes -- posting numerous photographs on social media depicting his world travels, spending hours in the gym toning a sharp physique and showing a flare for impeccably dapper attire.

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He ultimately paid back $40,000 of his own money to cover the cost of the office renovation.

All of the alleged misconduct occurred between the time he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2009 until he resigned in March 2015.

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U.S. attorney James Lewis said in a statement Thursday that Schock defrauded the federal government and his own campaign out of more than $100,000, and then took a series of illegal steps to cover up his activity.

"These charges allege that Mr. Schock deliberately and repeatedly violated federal law, to his personal and financial advantage," he said. "Schock held public office at the time of the alleged offenses, but public office does not exempt him or anyone else from accountability for alleged intentional misuse of public funds and campaign funds."

Some investigators and Illinois residents ultimately became agitated with the perception that Schock's top priority was bettering himself while bettering the lives of his constituents took a back seat.

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RELATED February 2015: Rep. Aaron Schock renovates office in 'Downton Abbey' style

On Thursday, Schock and his attorney rejected the charges and said they look forward to proving the young congressman's innocence.

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"I intend to not only prove these allegations false, but in the process, expose this investigation for what it was," Schock said in a statement. "Neither I nor anyone else intentionally did anything wrong ... We might have made errors among a few of the thousands and thousands of financial transactions we conducted, but they were honest mistakes."

"I simply cannot believe that it's come to this," he told reporters Thursday.

"This indictment will look bad, but underneath it is just made-up allegations of criminal activity arising from unintentional administrative errors," defense attorney George Terwilliger said. "These charges are the culmination of an effort to find something, anything, to take down Aaron Schock."

During an interview with ABC News in February 2015, Schock said that his voters elected him because they know he can get the job done.

"I think most people who voted for me, who elected me in my district, know what they're getting," he said. "I'm somebody who delivers for my district."

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